No matter the ups and downs for the Virginia Cavaliers this season, the receiving core has been absolutely stellar all year long as the depth and versatility of weapons has provided quarterback Brennan Armstrong with a fantastic supporting cast in the passing game.
That’s been the case despite a number of injuries as Jelani Woods, Keytaon Thompson, and Dontayvion Wicks have all missed time. When certain guys have been absent, others have stepped up, as Thompson and Henry did on Saturday against Louisville when Wicks left the game in the first half.
“It’s been really fun to see,” says Bronco Mendenhall, as he emphasizes that “there’s a reason that Brennan [Armstrong] is having success, and certainly he’s a huge part of that, [but] who he’s throwing to is also really helping.”
Mendenhall says that he’s “been really impressed with not only their production but their consistency.” As he notes, Virginia is the only team in the country with four receivers who each have over 400 yards receiving this season. “To have that many [with 400 yards receiving] speaks to the diversity,” he says.
Although Bill Kemp IV didn’t quite put up the numbers that Henry and Thompson did on Saturday, Mendenhall credits the senior for his consistency all season long. As Kemp IV reeled in nine catches for 64 yards and a score against Louisville, Mendenhall emphasizes that “he just keeps making plays and he’s durable and he’s tough and makes the critical play.”
He goes on to say that “the other [receivers] now are becoming more like [Kemp IV],” and points out how Malachi Fields — who had three receptions for 60 yards on Saturday — “is starting to emerge.”
Mendenhall also credited the Armstrong-Thompson connection for coming up big late in the win on Saturday. “The two of them played a critical role in our last drive, 4th down conversions, and being on the same page with lots of improvisations going on the last drive,” says Mendenhall.
He continues by noting that “those plays were as designed and those were coverage recognitions adjusted and read by both the quarterback and the quarterback playing football player at the same time that were just both completely in sync. It was just amazing to witness and watch, and I’m so lucky they’re both on our team.”
In terms of how Mendenhall would try and defend Virginia’s numerous weapons, he emphasizes that “it’s really tough, unless you have superior players,” as he adds that “that’s why the recruiting business is what it is, and that’s why the morals and values and ethics or lack thereof in recruiting are what they are now.”
He says that if an opposing defense doesn’t have the personnel to match up against UVA’s skilled position players, “[defending the ‘Hoos] becomes challenging, and that’s what most of us in college football deal with. So then it’s scheme and then it’s culture and then it’s statistics and then it’s game planning and game management and all of that.”
But, in the end, with the talent that Virginia has, Mendenhall knows that “as we see week in and week out, it is tough [to defend] and that’s what the numbers are saying.”